The Three Essential Functions Of A Restaurant Website
When most people think of a restaurant website, they think of the homepage.
They picture the restaurant’s logo, some big text, and some pictures of the restaurant’s food. Maybe there’s some additional text that talks about the restaurant’s history or shows pictures of the owner and their family.
It’s nice... but you’ve probably questioned whether or not it’s actually essential for your business.
Or at least, that’s how it used to be.
In the post-pandemic era, a restaurant website is no longer an optional online brochure.
It’s an essential tool, and if takeout and delivery make up a notable percentage of your restaurant’s revenue, it has # essential functions.
First, your restaurant website needs to be really effective at selling food.
When new and returning customers arrive at your website, does your website encourage them to order?
What percentage of visitors place an order?
What is the Average Order Value (AOV)?
What percentage of these customers return to place a second order?
How often do regulars return to place orders each month?
Increasing all of these numbers is the MOST important job of a restaurant website, and how effective your website is will be a function of your entire online ordering system... not just the homepage.
Second, your restaurant website needs to attract new customers to your website.
Restaurant marketing can be challenging. Most restaurant owners are not marketing experts, and they have very limited time available to focus on proactive marketing.
Fortunately, your website has the potential to do a lot of the marketing for you. It should be designed and structured to attract local customers directly to the site for either in-person dining or direct online orders.
Unfortunately, most restaurant owners aren’t aware of their website's potential and are still treating it as an online brochure.
If that’s you, we’ll talk about how to turn your website into a marketing asset in the next section..
Third, your restaurant website needs to compliment your restaurant branding.
Your website should have enough customization options to let you display your branding and show off your restaurant’s unique look and feel.
At a certain point, too much customization becomes counterproductive.
If you can do anything, it puts the burden on you to be a great designer, and just like most restaurant owners aren’t professional marketers, most aren’t professional designers either.
You ideally want a website builder that lets you show off your unique branding while restricting your options to a professionally designed aesthetic that looks amazing.
1. Owner.com Empowers Independent Restaurant Owners
Most restaurant website builders only focus on helping you display your branding.
They are designed to create an online brochure.
Owner.com is the first website builder designed to be everything a restaurant needs to succeed.
You get a world class online ordering system, complete with strategic upsells, commission-free delivery, built-in loyalty program, customer social proof, and so much more.
You also get a strategic structure designed to attract new customers to your website when they are searching for food in Google.
When local consumers are searching for your cuisine type, they will find your website.
But even more importantly, every single menu item has its own URL that is indexed in Google, so you end up ranking for dish-related search terms in your area as well.
And of course, we also give you all the customization options you need to show off your brand while maintaining a professional aesthetic.
You can customize your images, copywriting, typography, colors, logo, story sections, and a ton more.
And no matter what you change it to, you will still end up with a beautiful website, no design skills required.
Owner.com is the ONLY website builder designed exclusively for restaurants that helps you massively increase your online sales rather than simply putting out a digital brochure.
The goal here isn’t to create a piece of art.
The goal is to put more money in your pocket, and that’s exactly what we do.
2. Wix Makes Startup Simple On A Tight Budget
Wix makes building a website both easy and affordable. If all you’re looking to do is post your menu online, then Wix is free, but for as little as $16 a month, you can take advantage of Wix Restaurants’ advanced features.
- Online ordering system
- Online table reservations
- Removal of Wix branding
- Connecting your own domain
- Extra bandwidth and storage
- Premium customer support
With over 60 restaurant specific templates, building a website is beginner-friendly, and you can start creating in a matter of seconds.
Simply select a template that’s a good fit for your restaurant, then you can either view a template or begin editing immediately without entering any payment information.
For example, this is a template for a burger restaurant. All you’d need to do is swap out the contact information and update the menu.
If you like what you’ve created, you can publish the website, but the domain will be owned by Wix. Your URL will look something like this, with “wixsite.com” in your web address.
You’ll need to upgrade to a premium plan to connect a custom domain.
Your options are extremely limited when using the free plan, and you’ll have Wix branding throughout your website. Still, if you don’t have the funds and need your menu, location, and contact information online, this is a great opportunity, and it looks polished.
Be aware that if you want to use a different template after creating your first website, you can’t swap out templates. You’ll have to transfer all the information to the new site manually.
If the idea of building a website using templates feels overwhelming, you can use Wix ADI—which stands for Wix Artificial Design Intelligence.
It works by asking you a series of questions about your restaurant and the style of website you’d like built. Based on your answers, ADI will build your restaurant’s website.
Wix ADI is free to use, and you can make adjustments after the build, but you’ll be limited with your website's capabilities unless you upgrade to a premium plan.
Once built, you can control your website from this easy-to-navigate dashboard.
Wix can help you build a solid website for free, but considering how inexpensive it is to access the advanced features, like an online ordering system and loyalty programs, you’ll quickly make back your investment from the new customers you’ll reach.
You should know that the $16 a month for the most affordable tier is billed annually, so you’ll need $192 upfront to use the advanced features.
Also, some Wix users report that customer support isn’t very reliable, and the staff is too poorly trained to help with basic troubleshooting.
3. Squarespace Makes Custom Design Easier
With Squarespace, restaurant owners have complete control over fonts, colors, button sizes, and more.
Squarespace offers over 100 templates to get you started, but there are two things you need to know about using Squarespace.
1. You can do the exact same edits with every template.
2. Squarespace designs its templates around extremely high quality photos.
For example, in the “Auburn” template below, you can see a beautiful picture of a steak with simple text to communicate the restaurant's message.
Every template consists of photos, buttons, and text, which can easily be swapped out, moved around, and adjusted.
Because of this, Squarespace’s tools make it easy to create a custom design. You can play around with a template for free by clicking “start with (name of template),” which will give you access to editing tools.
Once inside, click Design > Site Styles, and you can see just how much you can adjust and customize any template.
The most challenging part about building a website on Squarespace is producing your own high quality photos. Don’t use photos from Squarespace because it will be misleading to your guests. Hiring a photographer and producing your own photos can be costly, but the results will be worth the expense.
Once you have photos, you can start from scratch or use one of the many templates available for inspiration and guidance.
If you’re a restaurant owner with experience working on website builders, and feel comfortable with coding, Squarespace offers the ability to add your own code in CSS format to customize:
You’ll can apply CSS coding in the Design portion of the editor.
As you can see from this image, using CSS code comes with a warning. If you do decide to add custom codes, use it sparingly; changing too much of the code could result in a broken design and the support team unable to help.
The option to add CSS code makes Squarespace highly customizable, but unless you’re familiar with using it, I wouldn’t chance the problems it could create.
Squarespace makes custom designing your website fairly easy, but it comes with drawbacks. It doesn’t come with built-in advanced features like online ordering, reservations, or loyalty programs.
To use an online ordering system and reservations system, you’ll need to connect with a third-party company like Tock or ChowNow.
ChowNow has integrated with Squarespace for years but has become severely outdated.
Tock is owned by Squarespace but comes with a 3% transaction fee per order on takeout and delivery, plus a monthly fee of $199 for the lowest tier, with a 2% fee on prepaid reservations. The next tier up costs a surprisingly high $699 a month.
Tock says they are an all-in-one restaurant management tool, but it seems they put the most emphasis on handling reservations—though there is a limited amount of reporting.
The absence of a loyalty program can put your restaurant at a significant disadvantage. Automated loyalty programs have a proven track record of turning customers into regulars by rewarding their patronage—raising monthly profits.
4. Weebly Is A Great Option For Dine-In Only Restaurants
Not every restaurant needs a comprehensive online ordering system. If your restaurant focuses on a dine-in only experience, Weebly could be a very easy-to-use and affordable option.
If your website’s goal is to show an online menu, about, location, and hours, then Weebly’s simple drag and drop website builder is great for beginners and even offers a free plan with a free domain, though it’s limited in its abilities and comes with Weebly/Square branding.
Meaning a Weebly ad bar at the bottom of your website page and a Weebly subdomain.
The lowest tier is priced at $10 a month for the annual bill or $13 month-to-month. The main feature of this paid plan is owning your domain name and eliminating any on-page Weebly/Square branding. A price well worth paying since an ad-free website is more credible and professional.
Webbly will get your restaurant site online quickly and easily using their intuitive drag and drop editor.
Simply select an element you’d like to edit and drop it anywhere you’d like to add text, images, titles, and CTA buttons.
You can also use elements to create spacing, categories, galleries, slideshows, and more.
The menu created by Weebly for their template isn’t very inspiring, as you can see here, but it shouldn’t be difficult to spruce it up with images and better food descriptions.
Add photos of dishes by dragging and dropping the “image” element under each menu item description. Then upload a photo from your computer. However, some people have reported difficulty with consistently uploading and sizing pictures correctly.
The simplicity of this menu page could be great for restaurants that focus on seasonal foods and change their menus often. Though, taking and uploading photos for each menu change might not be possible or practical.
Weebly claims to be mobile-friendly, but the mobile version of the example template we’ve used so far doesn’t look great.
This is the mobile version of the site used in our first example. It feels outdated and amateurish.
The text, “we get the juices flowing,” feels odd and out of place when there isn’t any visible food to give context.
Notice if you look to the left side of the image, you can’t make any edits on the mobile version. A serious issue considering how many people use their mobile devices and not their desktops when deciding on a place to eat.
Weebly’s more advanced options are hidden behind paywalls and aren’t necessarily restaurant focused. If you’re looking to provide online ordering, reservations, and reporting, you’ll need to connect Weebly with a third-party company called Gloria Food.
This company offers these services for free, but to be truly effective, you’ll need to pay for premium services like online/credit card payments, marketing promotions, and a sales-optimized website.
Using Weebly can give you a polished, professional looking website which is very important considering 70% of people looking at a restaurant online only want to see the menu.
Before committing, Weebly offers enough free services that you can take the site for a “test drive” to see how it performs before making any financial obligations. If the site works for you, then you can make the leap for more advanced features.
5. WordPress Gives You Complete Control (For Better Or Worse)
WordPress is the most popular website builder in the world, but that’s not necessarily an indicator that it’s a good match to create your site.
The reason so many people use WordPress is because of the over 50,000 plug-ins and tools available to create nearly any kind of restaurant website you can think of.
Like other website builders, WordPress offers a free version but hides it’s most valuable tools behind a paywall. Meaning you’ll need to pay a minimum of $25 a month to gain access to the 50,000 plug-ins that can help you run your business.
Once you have access to the plug-ins, you can use the search bar to search for plug-ins related to restaurants.
You can see from this image that there are at least 396 plug-ins to help you manage your website.
Plug-ins that can help with email marketing, online ordering systems, online reservations, online menus, table reservations, events calendar, staff scheduling, social media, online payments, FAQs—the list can go on for quite a while.
Outside of restaurant-focused plug-ins, there are tools that can optimize your website with SEO, help customers locate your store on a map, improve website speed, manage emails, and many, many more.
The reason WordPress has so many plug-ins and tools is that it’s an open-source software—meaning people worldwide are allowed to create new plug-ins for WordPress that help people manage their websites.
It’s this cache of plug-ins and open-source software that attracts so many web builders, especially tech savvy designers that can use code to create the most customized websites on the internet.
Here’s the thing about all these tools and plug-ins—you don’t really need them.
You don’t need a highly customized, overly designed website.
You don’t need to pay for the access to thousands of tools, of which you’ll only use a small handful.
What you need is a website that’s on-brand, looks great, and makes you money because customers find it super easy to use.
Unless you’re an already seasoned web builder, the steep learning curve required to execute a functional website on WordPress won’t be worth the effort.
There are WordPress themes geared toward restaurants, and these sites are beautiful.
But WordPress doesn’t build its products with restaurant owners in mind. They don’t think about the little time restaurant owners have to design and construct a site.
Once your website is built, you’ll need to sift through the thousands of plug-ins to figure out which ones will be best for your restaurant.
Not all plug-ins are free either—even after paying for access.
You’ll have to pay for tools you find useful on top of the bill to have your website online. This can add up pretty quickly.
Write-ups and reviews on WordPress are mixed, but the overall consensus is that it’s difficult to use and certainly not beginner friendly.
The bottom line is you don’t need to make creating your restaurant’s website overly complicated.
The goal is to attract more customers, sell more food, and make more money.
Next Steps: Restaurant Marketing
Getting a great website live is an important step, and with the right website platform, it can take a lot of other steps for you as well.
But if you're serious about increasing your restaurant profits, then the next step is to improve your restaurant marketing.
Check out our Complete Guide To Restaurant Marketing and learn how you can use software to automate most of our proven process.
Our all-in-one-platform helps you take back control of your online presence, drive direct sales, save money on fees, and manage everything in one place. Schedule a demo to see the platform in action and discover why our new restaurant partners increase online sales by an average of 270% in their first three months using Owner.com.Schedule A Demo